Why did the writers of the Bible not start with a definition of the Godhead? We want to know who God is! When we approach the Bible with a desire to find out who God is, we will search in vain for a definition. If we look for a definition of the Godhead, the closest we may find is in the first commandment of the Decalogue: “ ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery’ ” (Exod. 20:2).1 What do we learn from this “definition”? Who is God? He is the one who acts! The Bible defines God by His deeds on behalf of humanity.
It is interesting that the first pages of the Bible offer no definition of the Godhead but rather describe God’s first great deed in the history of our world—Creation. While a definition may remain just words on a piece of paper, God’s deeds have long-term effects and constantly testify to who He is. Creation is the first deed of God in our planet’s history, and with that deed, He introduced Himself as our Creator. Humans came at the end of the six-day Creation week, and God planned the seventh-day Sabbath for a special connection with them. The Sabbath day is a celebration of Creation and a reminder of who God is.
When God made Himself known to Abraham, again, that revelation did not contain a definition of the Godhead but testified about the deeds that God had planned for the future: “ ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ ” (Gen. 12:2, 3). The God of Abraham showed who He was through what He did. He wanted a relationship with Abraham, and He proved Himself to be faithful, consistent, full of love and care—the One who would keep His promises and fulfill them on behalf of Abraham and his offspring.
Revelation of God
Later, when God disclosed Himself to Moses in the desert in a bush that did not burn up, He simply said, “ ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’ ” (Exod. 3:6). What kind of definition of the Godhead is that? God revealed Himself to the patriarchs through His deeds, was faithful to His promises, and blessed them. Now that same God proclaimed Himself to Moses. When Moses finally asked what he should tell others about who had sent him, God responded: “ ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you” ’ ” (Exod. 3:14).
God is the living God whom we learn about through His deeds. From His revelation to Moses comes the Old Testament name for God—Yahweh. In the Old Testament, Yahweh is the one who works for His people. The God who works, the One that is, the Living God, would complete with Moses and the Israelites one of the greatest deeds in the Old Testament—the exodus from Egyptian slavery. He would free them from bondage and lead them through the desert, feed them with manna from heaven, give them water from rocks, live among them in the sanctuary, and have a constant relationship with them. Finally, Yahweh would bring them into the land of milk and honey. The blessings promised to Abraham continued during the history of the nation of Israel, and the Old Testament deeds of God testify about them.
Later, in the time of the Israelite prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, people started to forget about God’s deeds in the past. The Israelites did not respond to His faithfulness anymore, and they ended up in Babylonian captivity. Realizing what they had done and knowing where to find what they desperately needed, they pled with God for help in establishing a relationship with Him once again. Yahweh heard their pain and rescued them from the Babylonian exile. God again brought them into the Promised Land, where life started all over again and blessings accompanied them. God had once more shown through this deed that He is faithful. If a definition could encompass Him, then it must contain His deeds.
Jesus reveals God
Later, as history continued, the nation of Israel went its own way by entering into religious traditionalism, which left little space for God’s deeds. So, God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ from heaven to live among people (John 1:14). By His deeds, Jesus was to reveal God Himself (Matt. 4:24). When John the Baptist sent a delegation to Jesus to ask Him if He was the One to come, Jesus responded with His deeds: “ ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’ ” (Matt. 11:5). God the Father made Himself known in the deeds of Jesus, and thus Jesus could say: “ ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ ” (John 14:9). Who God is can best be shown to fallen human beings in the deeds of Jesus (Heb. 1:1, 2). The blessings promised to Abraham continued in the ministry of Jesus.
The biggest deed of God in the history of humanity is the Cross. On the cross, He displayed the beauty of His character in all fullness. There He demonstrated that He is the One who chose to suffer for people. He gave His life for them—even though most humans were not going to be thankful for that sacrifice. If the Bible emphasizes the deeds of God, what should we stress in our speech about Him? Early Christians in their preaching clearly emphasized God’s deeds (e.g., Stephen in Acts 7:1–53). Luke reported in the Acts of the Apostles the history of early Christianity and transmitted to us a number of early Christian sermons (Peter in Acts 2:14–36; 3:12–26; 10:34–43; Paul in Acts 13:16–41; 17:22–31; 28:20–28). All of those apostolic sermons proclaimed the deeds of God and culminated with that of the Cross.
The concept of the Trinity is the result of realizing God’s deeds as depicted in the Bible.
The last deed of God described in the Bible, after Jesus’ second coming and the final deliverance of humanity from the bondage of sin, is the new creation (Revelation 22). The whole Bible, from cover to cover, testifies about divine acts. In the Bible, God does not reveal Himself through definitions but through His living deeds, which have the purpose of creating a permanent relationship with humanity. That is why the focus of our language about God also needs to be on His deeds. A sermon that does not proclaim God’s deeds in its core is not a sermon at all, since preaching, in reality, means proclaiming His divine actions. In the same way, a definition of the Godhead that does not focus on God’s deeds is not trustworthy.
The acts of the Spirit
In the Bible, God revealed Himself through the Father, who sent His Son to our world. After finishing His deeds on the earth, Jesus promised His followers another Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who would stay with them all the time (John 14:16, 17). After His ascension, at Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled His promise (Acts 2:1–4) and sent the Holy Spirit as His Replacement, One who would always work for His faithful people as a continuation of the blessings promised to Abraham (Eph. 4:30). Since that time, the Holy Spirit has globally represented the Godhead on earth (Rev. 5:6), while Jesus in heaven guides earth’s history to its culmination and prepares Himself to come and get His faithful people (Rev. 19:11–16).
The book of Acts testifies about the deeds of the Holy Spirit, who led and directed the apostles in their mission (e.g., Acts 5:32; 11:12; 13:2; 15:28). The Three Persons of the Godhead complement each other with their deeds in the biblical accounts, working together in the plan of salvation for humanity (2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:3–6). Ellen G. White connects the whole biblical revelation when she claims: “Of all His infinite resources, God gave the whole. The three representative powers of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, were pledged to carry out God’s plan for the salvation of the lost race. Thus fully did the Lord engage the heavenly universe in the work of redemption.”2
Deeds that Yahweh did in the Old Testament, Jesus then did in the Gospels. As Yahweh fed the Israelites in the desert with manna and gave them water from rocks, so Jesus fed multitudes with bread (e.g., John 6:1–13) and offered them the Water of Life (e.g., John 4:5–14). Living water is actually a symbol for the Spirit that refreshes the faithful (John 7:38, 39).
After Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit would continue the deeds of Jesus on earth, guiding the faithful (John 16:13) and connecting heaven with earth. That is why the faithful pray to God the Father (Matt. 6:9) for the power of the Spirit in their lives (Acts 8:15) in the name of Jesus (John 14:13, 14). A believer prays in the name of Jesus since He has defeated the powers of darkness on the cross and with that victory has received all authority (Matt. 28:18). Since His ascension, Jesus has occupied His place next to His Father on the throne of heaven (Mark 16:19), and thus He has all authority to send help to His faithful and work great deeds for them through the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity acting in the plan of salvation
The term Trinity is a human attempt to summarize, in one word, God’s deeds and to define God, who fulfills His plan of salvation for humankind through the Three Persons of the Godhead. Why does the Bible not use the term Trinity? It is because definitions of the Godhead are not its focus—but God’s living deeds are. Trinity is a human term that comprehensively testifies about God’s efforts in the plan of salvation. God is One, but He reveals Himself in the pages of the Bible as Triune, Three Persons who together contribute to the same goal. To reduce God to less than the Bible reveals would be to demote His workings among us. But to say in our definition of the Godhead more than what Scripture has revealed would be to put our human intellect above the biblical revelation. The God of the Bible presents Himself in His deeds, and it is our task to proclaim the deeds of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The concept of the Trinity is the result of realizing God’s deeds as depicted in the Bible. The Trinity could be refuted, but such efforts decrease God’s plan of salvation and efforts for humanity. At its core, the Trinity is a practical concept because it testifies about God’s praxis in the plan of salvation. Finally, we are not saved through theories but through divine actions. Thus, the next time you find yourself tempted to emphasize theories of the Godhead, just open the Bible and read about God’s practical deeds. Then look into your own life and testify about His deeds in your own history.
As believers, we recognize God’s practical deeds in the actions of the Trinity. God works among us through the Holy Spirit while we await the appearance of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, who will take us to an eternity in which the Godhead will be both closer and clearer to us.
- Scripture is from the New International Version.
- Ellen G. White, "A Call to Consecration," Manuscript 139, June 18, 1907, par. 10.